Hardware: a laptop that covers all the bases
The N75SF doesn't look all that impressive. Apart from the purely subjective criteria of taste and colour, some of the choices Asus has made don't seem particularly judicious. The hood for example is glossy black, which means you're certain to leave finger marks on it when you handle it. When you open it up, the grey plastic used for the keyboard clashes somewhat with the rest.
The keyboard and number pad are in the chiclet (separated keys) design. However the keys are a bit cheap looking. The second drawback is that placing shortcuts on the right changes the keying and leads to the odd typing error. The keyboard on the 17.3-inch G74SX, also from Asus, is better spaced out and nicer to use.
We were impressed with the touchpad however. It's multitouch, wide and has a nice glide, making it a real pleasure to use.
We also liked the webcam. The level of detail is good both in dark and light zones. Movements are also well rendered, so there's no need to get an external model as well.
The connectivity covers all the bases. On the right, you'll find the headphones and mic sockets, two USB 3.0 ports, an HDMI out, a card reader, a VGA out, an Ethernet (RJ45) out and a mini-jack designed to link up to an external subwoofer that is delivered with the laptop. On the left are two USB 2.0 ports and the Blu-ray player (which also serves as a DVD rewriter).
The N75SF runs quietly. Even when you push the components hard, you won't notice it unless you're in a really quiet room. However, it doesn't do so well with the hot air. Instead of expelling it between the chassis and the screen as Apple does with its laptops, or at the back as with the Asus Republic of Gamers range, it sends it onto your knees.
Bang & Olufsen audio
2 x USB 2.0 ports, Blu-ray player / DVD rewriter combo
Headphones and mic, USB 3.0 ports (X 2), HDMI, SD card reader, VGA, RJ45, subwoofer socket, power supply
Processor power: it can do the lot
Asus has chosen an Intel Core i7-2630QCM processor, which gives you maximum all-round use. Each of its four physical cores can launch two processes in parallel. On applications that are optimised for it, it will, on average, be twice as efficient as a processor like the Core i5-2410M. It handles office work, file decompression, HD video encoding, 3D modelling and so on. It does it all and it does it fast. This may seem obvious as it does after all have a Blu-ray player, but we should say that it is perfectly able to decode HD video.
Windows 7 Family Premium edition (64-bit) takes 41 seconds to boot. You then have to wait another 15 to 30 seconds for the various pieces of software and connection to a wi-fi network to launch. It turns off in under 15 seconds.
Gaming: decent performance
The GT 555M graphics card allows you to do all your gaming at native screen definition. Note however, on demanding titles such as Crysis 2 or Metro 2033, you won't be able to push your options above medium if you want to be able to play under decent conditions.
Audio: high quality but saturates
The sound saturates rapidly due to the fact that the speakers and the subwoofer don't measure up to the built-in audio chipset. This means you can't take the volume too high or you'll have to channel the audio to an external kit.
Battery life: 2h1017.3'' models never make particularly good travelling companions and the N75SF is no exception. What's more, a battery life of 2h10 severely limits use away from a power supply and its weight (3.4 Kg) and size (42.6 x 29 x 4 cm) means you'll be happier transporting it in a suitcase with wheels on it than in a rucksack.
- Powerful processor
- Decent gaming capacity
- Good connectivity and all-rounder hardware
- Quality audio ins/outs
- Glossy panel with inaccurate colours
- Design will raise a few eyebrows
- The placement of keys on keyboard needs a rethink
- Undersized speakers and subwoofer
If you put aesthetics to one side for a second, the N75SF is a real gem. It's quiet to use and has all the functionality you could want (Blu-ray and USB 3.0, wide touchpad). The well-contrasted screen and high performance processor and graphics card give this machine wide-ranging potential.